Editor's Note — April 10, 2014, 3:28 pm

Introducing the May 2014 Issue

The life-coach industry, quinoa quarreling, and the comedy of Doug Stanhope

Harper's Magazine (May 2014)At one time or another, we’ve all felt unsure of our futures. We worry about our personal relationships, of course, but also about our careers. Who among us hasn’t felt insecure about getting a job, keeping a job, advancing in it? To answer these questions, an increasing number of people have turned to life coaching — and have wondered whether it wasn’t time to ditch more traditional forms of therapy. In the May 2014’s cover story, “50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong,” Genevieve Smith, who last wrote on the self-help movement in the June 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine, immerses herself in what has become a thriving industry. Joining a class of aspiring coaches — i.e., dissatisfied people who are being taught how to advise other dissatisfied people — she ponders the fine line between self-help and hucksterism. Yes, Smith would insist: there is a difference.

Since everyone seems to love quinoa these days, we have included a report on this miracle crop by Lisa M. Hamilton. Though often the butt of jokes (most memorably, a beer commercial comparing a quinoa cake to a loofah sponge), this grain is amazingly resilient, flourishing even in freezing, arid, and salt-saturated soil, and could go a long way toward feeding the world’s hungry. The largest quinoa seed bank, however, is owned by the Bolivian government, and the country is reluctant to share it. In “The Quinoa Quarrel: Who Owns the World’s Greatest Superfood?” Hamilton travels to the Andes, where she talks to Bolivian geneticists and growers, and to Provo, Utah, where a pair of Mormon agronomists dream of growing hybrid quinoa on an industrial scale — and perhaps even patenting it.

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, the much admired author of Random Family, writes about the impressively foul-mouthed comedian and provocateur Doug Stanhope. Although he has had a loyal fan base for the past twenty years, Stanhope has become better known recently thanks to the effusive praise of comics like Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, and Ricky Gervais. LeBlanc catches up with Stanhop’s Big Stink Tour in Tampa, Florida, and travels with his crew throughout the South, producing a portrait of a fiercely independent, extremely creative, booze-infused personality.

Alice Gregory reports on the phenomenon of the “found money” TV show — a new, very popular genre in which people bid on the contents of houses, luggage, trunks, and all kinds of boxes without knowing what’s inside. The winning bidders, of course, are hoping they may have purchased valuable jewelry, rare coins, or antique pottery. Just as often, though, they get exactly what they paid for: zilch. In Gregory’s view, these shows are purely cynical, a producer’s wink at the current recession and the financial industry that created it.

Also in this issue: photographs from the Sochi Olympics by Benjamin Lowy; Michael Robbins on the links between poetry and metal; a short story by Antonya NelsonLaura Miller on our enduring fascination with Sherlock Holmes; Daniel Smith on Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History; and Maria Bustillos reporting from Texas on the human suffering caused by state governors who refuse to accept federal Medicaid money under the Affordable Care Act.

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More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note August 13, 2014, 6:28 pm

Introducing the September 2014 Issue

Where Israel and Palestine can go from here, Washington D.C.’s enduring legacy of racial strife, Edward O. Wilson on free will, and more

Editor's Note July 10, 2014, 1:05 pm

Introducing the August 2014 Issue

Jessica Bruder on the end of retirement, Mary Gordon on the new Vatican, Laura Kipnis on narcissism, and more

Editor's Note June 12, 2014, 8:00 am

Introducing the July 2014 Issue

Kevin Baker on the lost glory of America’s railroads, Mark Hertsgaard on Obama’s environmental failures, Sarah Menkedick on why Mexican immigrants are moving back home, and more

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  • Albert Wien

    Laura Miller’s essay on Holmes is brilliant, but your editors should have clamped down on the trendy millennial inarticulateness of Michael Robbins’ piece on metal and poetry.



September 2014

Israel and Palestine

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Washington Is Burning

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On Free Will

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They Were Awake

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Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

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“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

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"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

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“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

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In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

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